Conduct of campaign sparks concern in EU Parliament
Electoral conditions ‘far from free and fair’
By a Special Correspondent
Despite an all out campaign in which virtually the entire Oireachtas besieged the people to secure a Yes vote in the Coalition’s homosexual union referendum, it looks from results that more than
46% of Sligo/North Leitrim voters have given them the bum’s rush, and voted No, as did 750,000 others countrywide.
Conduct of the referendum campaign has become a live issue in the European Parliament where in the last few days MEPs have expressed concern over the state of democracy in Ireland.
The Coalition’s campaign was backed by Fianna Fail, Sinn Fein, the Greens, and left wing outfits and entities, – almost the entire Oireachtas – thereby drowning out opportunity for fair and proper
discussion and analyses of the issues. Former President, Mary McAleese turned out for the Yes side. Speaking publicly of her “hopes and fears” for her son, Justin, she called on everyone in the country to support the referendum. The move had been branded as unprecedented for a former president – in this case a figure who served as president for two terms. Her reported reference to a “bog standard Irish Catholic attitude” has been condemned as profoundly offensive.
Multinational corporations also mobilised in favour of the Yes side, so, too, the IDA whose remit is to encourage inward investment in new industrial activity. The campaign for the adoption of the
referendum also had the powerful support of major sectors of the public and private broadcasting sector and national print media.
The Garda Representative Association took sides to urge gardai to vote Yes. Gardai are legally obliged to remain strictly neutral in referenda and elections. It is what they are sworn to do. Former Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman, Nuala O’Loan said she was “appalled” by the calls for a Yes vote from the association.
An American philanthropic organisation allegedly has over time donated upwards of twenty-five million euru to a number of organisations involved in the Yes side of the referendum. Their prominence, together with the scale of the funding allocated by various political parties and other donors, left the less financially supported No side severely handicapped, rendering effective opposition virtually impossible.
Excepting the much and wrongly criticised early intervention of the Bishop of Elphin, Dr. Kevin Doran, the Church hierarchy failed miserably to provide information and clarification of the implications of the referendum in a straightforward and timely manner. Many feel hurt and greatly let down by the Church, and, too, by comments of one prominent leader who reportedly stated he was “reluctantly” voting no. There has also been shock at a
number of Catholic priests who called for a Yes vote, something which has caused confusion, if not worse, about the consistency of the position of the Irish Church on the institution of marriage and the family.
From the very outset of the campaign, people were up against the most powerful and undemocratic use of power ever witnessed in the State. Incidents of harassment, intimidation and criminality reportedly engaged in by some elements of the Yes side left many people frightened and disturbed, as did claims of masked ‘activists’ on the streets, apparently roaming around with impunity.
Posters displaying pro family images or messages were torn down, and ripped up, and the acts recorded and uploaded to You Tube. Was this a reflection of hatred of the family unit? Was it designed to tyrannise sections of the electorate who otherwise might have spoken or acted publicly against the referendum?
An extraordinary feature of the referendum surely must be that it was rolled out for the benefit of a mere minuscule part of the population – mostly middle class. To claim, as the Yes side are, that the campaign was for marriage equality is downright misleading. The part of the constitution targeted by the referendum is
Article 41, the family and marriage. This is the Article the referendum was geared to attack, and attacked and brought down it now has been. This will become apparent quickly enough for Irish society as a whole, but there will be no point in squealing then that the people were led up the garden path by the political establishment and their ilk. What has been voted for and carried cannot now be reversed, unless there is an intervention of some so far unidentified circumstance.
It is interesting that a number of politicians and celebrities chose the referendum campaign to announce they were homosexual or gay, saying the referendum helped them to “come out” and reveal their homosexuality, or that of their children or relatives to the world. We didn’t hear much about bisexuals, men and women, who cavort with the same sex, then go back to their wives or husbands without regard to the danger to which they may be exposing their partner or the impact any disease they may be carrying could have in the context of pregnancy or a foetus.
In the last few days, MEP Marek Jurek, a former President of the Polish Parliament, has intervened in the European Parliament’s plenary session to voice concern over the way in which the electorate was being steered to vote in favour of redefining the institution of marriage in Ireland.
This is his statement – his speaking time was limited to one minute:
“Mr. President! Free elections are not only fair counting of votes. Free elections first and foremost means that elections campaigns must be fair. The same is true – perhaps even more so – for a referendum. And that’s why it is necessary to comment on the disturbing information that is reaching us three days before the Irish
referendum, and which raises questions concerning the fairness of that referendum. Contrary to Irish law, in particular the judgements of the Supreme Court, parties get no equal representation in the referendum debate. Publicly funded political parties are threatening with exclusion all members who dare voice their opposition to
the homosexual agenda. The publicly funded media, not to mention the private media, are dominated by only one party – the one that supports overturning the current law. There have been very serious cases of intimidation, and bullying by employers who tell their employees that they must vote ‘Yes’ in the referendum. What does all this have to do with democracy?”
Several other MEPs have addressed an open letter to the President of the European Parliament, Schulz. Headed ‘Far from Free and Fair’ the letter, dated 19 May 2015, states:
“As you might be aware of, the Irish citizens will vote this Friday 22 May in a referendum aimed at amending the Irish Constitution so as to redefine marriage as being between any two persons, regardless of their sex. Unfortunately, a climate of fear and intimidation has pervaded throughout the campaign, creating electoral conditions that are far from ‘free and fair’.
“That is why we call on you, Mr. President, to urgently and firm intervene in accordance with the standards already met in
“The EU claims to be a community of democracies, governed by the Rule of Law. When we go around the world observing voting, we insist that just as important as how voting procedures are carried out on the day itself, is how the campaign is conducted.
“What has taken place in Ireland over the past months is unacceptable for an EU Member State:
“Every one of the publically-funded political parties in the Irish Parliament is actively campaigning for a Yes to same-sex marriage
and have threatened their members with expulsion unless they follow the party line.
“All of the media, both public and private, is strongly in favour and have even ignored a ruling of Ireland’s Supreme Court ordering
50/50 allocation of space to groups on both sides of the debate.
“Multinationals with their headquarters in Ireland are telling their employees to vote Yes and to campaign for this on the social media.
Considering that they employ thousands of Itrish citizens during a difficult period for the Irish economy, the veiled threat is not hard
Foreign billionaire has channelled millions of dollars to the Yes side, illegal under Irish electoral law, but not reacted to by the Irish
“Most disturbing of all, the national Police force is actively supporting the Yes side, including through the use of state resources by allowing police stations to be used for photo opportunities. This is particularly sinister because it is the Police who in Ireland are
charged with securing the integrity of the voting stations and the vote counting procedure. Even the former Northern Ireland Police
Ombudsman intervened to condemn this inappropriate action by the Police.
“We as Members of European Parliament are concerned that the integrity of the Irish Referendum has been seriously compromised.
This attitude to democracy is contradictory to core values of European Union, therefore we appeal, Mr. President, for your
intervention which we perceive indispensable.”
The letter is signed by the MEPs.